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Investigator Says Suspected KKK Link in Killings Was Kept Secret

October 9, 1991 GMT

JACKSON, Ga. (AP) _ A link between a series of slayings and the Ku Klux Klan was kept secret for fear it would provoke racial unrest, an investigator said Wednesday at a hearing to appeal Wayne Williams’ murder convictions.

Attorneys for Williams, who is black, contend the Klan was responsible for the slayings. They say details of a Klan investigation were illegally withheld from Williams’ trial lawyers, depriving him of a fair trial in 1982.

Williams is serving two life sentences for his convictions in the deaths of two of 29 young blacks killed in Atlanta from 1979-81. During his trial, prosecutors offered ″pattern″ evidence of 10 other slayings - including that of Lubie Geter. Williams was not charged in those slayings.

Police informant Billy Joe Whitaker testified Tuesday that he heard Klansman Charles S. Sanders confess to Geter’s killing. Police witnesses confirmed Tuesday they investigated Sanders in the case, but said they don’t know where he is now.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Robert Ingram, who headed the bureau’s organized crime unit in 1981, testified that then-Director Phil Peters feared ″racial problems″ in Atlanta if the purported Klan link became public.

″This information was to remain confidential,″ he said.

Ingram said police Detective Aubrey Melton told bureau officials of information, through the informant, that the Klan intended to kill a black child a month to provoke a racial crisis in Atlanta.

Ingram said bureau officials decided to begin their own investigation, independent of a special police task force set up to investigate the slayings. Ingram said he supervised the investigation.

He said tapes of conversations between the informant and members of the Sanders family were destroyed July 31, 1981, with his approval. He acknowledged that no one had been prosecuted in the slayings then, but said he ordered the tapes and other evidence destroyed after the Sanders investigation was closed.

Ingram also acknowledged receiving lab reports on dog hairs and carpet fibers taken from the Sanders home, but he said lab technicians advised ″none of the evidence matched the missing and murdered children.″

He said he does not know where those samples are now.

Whitaker said he taped for police an admission by Sanders after the Geter killing - as well as a boast that the Klan was involved in numerous Atlanta child murders.

After Williams’ conviction, police closed 22 other cases, blaming them on Williams without formally charging him.

Butts County Superior Court Judge Harold Craig was expected to hear additional testimony before ruling on whether to grant Williams a new trial.